The Beneficial Effects of Mind-Body Exercises for People With Mild Cognitive Impairment: a Systematic Review With Meta-analysis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2019 Aug;100(8):1556-1573. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2019.03.009. Epub 2019 Apr 12.


Objective: To objectively evaluate the most common forms of mind-body exercise (MBE) (tai chi, yoga, qigong) on cognitive function among people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Data sources: We searched 6 electronic databases (Scopus, PubMed, PsycINFO, WanFang, Web of Science, CNKI) from inception until September 2018.

Study selection: Nine randomized controlled trials and 3 nonrandomized controlled trials were included for meta-analysis.

Data extraction: Two researchers independently performed the literature searches, study selection, data extraction, and methodological quality assessment using the revised Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale.

Data synthesis: The pooled effect size (standardized mean difference [SMD]) was calculated while random-effect model was selected. Overall results of the meta-analysis (N=1298 people with MCI) indicated that MBE significantly improved attention (SMD=0.39, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.07-0.71, P=.02, I2=31.6%, n=245), short-term memory (SMD=0.74, 95% CI 0.57-0.90, P<.001, I2=0%, n=861), executive function (SMD=-0.42, 95% CI -0.63 to -0.21, P<.001, I2=38.54%, n=701), visual-spatial/executive function (SMD=0.35, 95% CI 0.07-0.64, P<.05, I2=0%, n=285), and global cognitive function (SMD=0.36, 95% CI 0.2-0.52, P<.001, I2=15.12%, n=902). However, the significant positive effect on cognitive processing speed was not observed following MBE interventions (SMD=0.31, 95% CI -0.01 to 0.63, P=.054, I2=28.66%, n=233).

Conclusions: Study findings of this meta-analysis suggest that MBE have the potential to improve various cognitive functions in people with MCI.

Keywords: Mild cognitive impairment; Qigong; Rehabilitation; Tai chi; Yoga.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mind-Body Therapies*